A typical example of racial profiling by the law authorities was a case of a Harvard professor known as Henry Louis Gates who found his home broken into and his neighbor called for assistance. When the police officer arrived, Henry asked to see a badge or formal identification as part of his rights; and the officer refused to lead to Gates condemning him for profiling. The professor was henceforth arrested for disorderly conduct. Witnesses, however, stated that Gates was aggressive and by drawing the racial card, he hit a nerve causing the police officer to be offended. According to Coates (2004), statistics it is very likely for African-Americans to be arrested more than their white counterparts and 60% of the total prison population is dominated by the native African –American. According to Wilkins, & Williams (2008), it is said that 1 out of 15 black Americans is likely to go to prison as compared to 1 out of 106 of the white people. The black community’s association with crimes of a drug offense, robbery, and cold blood murder is not the only form of profiling prevalent in the states.
Example of Racial Profiling
According to Aguirre (2004), the Hispanics and Latin-Americans face the constant scrutiny of whether or not they are illegal nationals and often have to be dragged down to the prescient for questioning. In some towns it is illegal for such a person to be walking around without their legal documents and a police officer will often stop you as many times as possible and even though one may have their documents with them, any suspicious behavior or comment can warrant an arrest (Persico,2002). Pampel (2004) cited by Kim(2004), identified such behavior whereby Hispanics near the Mexican border faced constant scrutiny from police officers harassing them to release their official documents. The Asian-Americans suffer the same fate. In a state like Arizona, they passed a law in 2010 known as the SB 1070 whereby police officers have the authority to stop any individual of Hispanic, Latino or Asian origin and require them to immediately produce their nationality documents failure to which they face arrest. The law was meant to reduce the rate of illegal immigrants in the states though many deemed it as an unethical practice. However, the law was upheld by the Supreme Court and with time five more states took up the legislation.
It is not easy to speak about terrorism and not think about the Islam religion. According to Myers (2002), the Muslim fraternity has always been assumed to be related to terror attacks and face a lot of racial profiling based on this assumption. According to Parker et.al (2004), even if some of the terror attacks have been associated with Muslims, the general idea is that all of them are terrorists who can strike at any time. After the September 11 terror attacks, a lot of Muslims and citizens of Iraq origin were arrested and forcefully detained due to their ethnicity. This claim, however, was not criticized by many since the main perpetrators of the crime attested that they had a lot of inside men
Whom they had sent to the country to collect information for them to ensure they had the correct strategy of when and how to strike. Since then counter-terrorism legislations have emerged, and the United Nations Committee which aims at fighting racial discrimination is fighting these legislations stating that they will lead to profiling of the Muslims and the Arabs in places like Australia and the United States.
Is Racial Profiling Justified?
Those who advocate for racial profiling state that it is necessary for any government that wishes to protect its people and take precautions at all costs (Johnson, 2004). Those supportive of the practice state that by performing racial profiling the law enforcement authorities can focus more on where the crimes are likely to be committed more likely. Many supporters of the practice of police profiling have based their argument on the fact that those minority groups targeted by the police have a high frequency of crime. According to Wilkins, & Williams (2008), it is true that the black people fraternity dominates the prisons but all these criminals went through a justice system that found them guilty of the charges brought forward. It is therefore not a logical explanation to state that the prisons are dominated by the blacks when indeed they were responsible for the crimes committed. The police workforce profiling can be based on some theories that justify their suspicions (Johnson, 2004).
The theory of social disorganization was postulated by Shaw and McKay in 1942 and attempts to explain the contribution of community conditions and structure to increasing crime rates and degradation of moral values. Such degradation accounted for most of the community members engaging in crime. Community conditions include low standards of living, exposure to harsh conditions like growing up in a neighborhood of drug abuse and racial discrimination which all contribute to change in behavior and moral degradation. This theory states that the level of social disorganization exhibited by a community can be a great indicator of crime and act as a basis for social profiling. When a community is disorganized, they litter their environmental leave their kids unattended and do little to groom their personal attributes which make them primary suspects of crimes (Aguirre, 2004).
According to Johnson (2004), the urban disadvantage and deprivation theory states that marginalized communities are more likely to engage in crime due to their social disadvantage. When communities like the African-Americans become racially discriminated they tend to become marginalized, and they may also develop a sense of arrogance towards the law which does not protect them from such vices like discrimination and white supremacy. The theory states that so long as poverty is increasing then the more the community is likely to have less interest in welfare involvement.
What are the ethical and moral dimensions of racial profiling
According to Coates (2004), in the recent years, there have been constant complaints about the role of racial profiling in aggravating discrimination and biased prejudices among the Americans and law enforcement authorities. Advocate state that the practice violates the fundamental human rights and should be put to a stop. The question is how does this theory relate to the ethical principles and does it pose a moral dilemma as the perpetrator's state? Ethics calls for equal rights and respect among all with no regard to attributes such as race, tribe, ethnicity or religion. The issue of racial profiling and concerns if the practice should be banned by the attorney general and the Supreme Court has continued to be contended among many (Johnson,2004).According to Johnson (2004), the theory of relativism is a theory that postulates that a person bases their actions as right or wrong according to their culture and how they were brought up. Most Of us refer to situations in our growing up where one was told that something is wrong or right and also made observations of how people lived and
Adopted that way of life. According to Coates (2004), the primary objective of the ethical relativism theory is to make people appreciate other people’s culture since everyone is brought up in different social settings, cultures and exposed to various social institutions. This relativism makes exposures diverse, and so we cannot share the same values. There are three forms of relativism. Cultural relativism refers to the fact that there are different cultures which have their unique set of values compared to other cultures. The descriptive ethical relativism states that norms and morals sometimes compare or contrast. This approach indicates that a practice may be wrong in one culture but acceptable in another. According to Durlauf (2005), the normative theory claims that there is no set of morals which is acceptable for the universe and that each culture has their way of life. This proposition means that we should not make judgments towards other communities based on their culture or characteristics. It would, therefore, be hard to impose a strange way of life and state it superior over one where an individual grew up. This theory discredits racial profiling as it generalizes that all people share the same views about life.
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